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G20 at Hamburg: America Jilted, World Wilted

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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The post-US withdrawal of Paris Pact at Hamburg was not adequately appropriative of the world mood. Such congregations and jamborees do create artificial camaraderie sans any tangible results, and the same has been witnessed at the Hamburg-Germany. Trump Presidency would be remembered for its biggest disservice to the cause of maintaining climate ecology on the planet earth.

Trump administration has emasculated the Paris Pact on Climate Change by shamelessly abandoning it. However, trade, security, and economic agenda have also met the predictable permutations. Despite the fact of an optimistic environment, there has been a sense of déjà vu among the members of the grouping at the Hamburg regarding many issues, particularly about climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made a statement, “I think it’s very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated” as reported by the BBC News on July 08, 2017. But the consensus is the hallmark of such organizations and that was conspicuous by its absence to the cheers of US capitalist and protectionist classes.

The international community has created and established many regional and international organizations and institutions like ASEAN, ECO, CARICOM, APEC, SAARC, OAS, Arab League, AU, GCC, ECOWAS, SCO, OECD, ACS, CAIS, Mercosur, Council of Europe, EAC, EU, PIF, CSTO, OECS, MSG, UM, ELAC, ACPGS, EFTA, VG, EEC, LAP, IBSA Dialogue Forum, Andean Community, ECCAS, IORA, NATO, RCEP, RECs, PLG, IADB, IGAD, SADC, NAFTA, SAFTA, BIMSTEC, BRICS, ADB, FTAs and TPPs and FAO, ILO, Interpol, IDB, UNDP, UNESCO, UNHCR, WHO outside the UN and  under the UN Charter to address the local and regional aspirations of the people in a manner that is expeditious and pragmatic. However, the establishment of these alliances is a testimony to the fact that various regions and continents of the world have got disenchanted with the functioning of the UNO. In many respects, UN architecture of post-World-War-II does not represent the present realities of the world. Thus, it has necessitated the mushrooming of these regional arrangements to attend those gaps where UN could not succeed.  

But, of late, it is being seen that these groupings have been failing in their mandate. Therefore, such a trend is not good for the world as a whole and raises highly annoying questions like; has G20 lost its relevance? What is the utility of such groupings like G8, G20, G77, or other regional alliances? Are these gatherings merely reduced to talking territories, photo-ops, and political tourism at the expense of ordinary taxpayers? What is the relevance of UNO in the contemporary world? International institutions like G20 must not be made hostage to one or few countries.  In fact, it was an occasion to underline the proactive approach of G20 on its agenda implementation within the stipulated time frame. Moreover, G20 could have put its foot down on all outstanding issues excluding the US. The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has rightly designated the EU is in an “elevated battle mood” to resort to the countermeasures on the US sidling to the policy of protectionism to promote the US steel industry. Further, EU has signed a free trade deal with Japan that might have the capability to defend the multilateral trade system beyond the US orbit and would neutralize the US protectionist measures against steel industries of China and Germany.  

Angela Merkel had articulated apprehensions and asserted that US exit from Paris Climate Change Accord had made the Germany and EU “more determined than ever to lead it to success.” Therefore, Angela Merkel has put the Paris Climate Change Agreement in the G20 Agenda items that created geopolitical embarrassment for Mr. Donald Trump. In this situation, she has emerged as a role model of sorts for center-left politicians across the West and established herself as an alternative leadership that is enthusiastically suave and diplomatically shrewd to the Trump Presidency. Thus, G20-Hamburg would also be remembered by the Media Mughals for their being witnesses to the moments of Historical Hand-Shakers without making any history of substance for the posterity. Putin and Trump were the cynosures of the entire assemblage, but Trump did not go beyond the usual euphemistic and optimistic averments on such occasions based on reciprocity and diplomacy. Therefore, how to decipher and decode the handshake between Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump of US? Would a domestic Donald Trump compete with a dynamic Emmanuel Macron of France? Would Angela Merkel get any dividends out of this diplomatic ostensibility? However, Justin Trudeau of Canada and Macron has extended an adorable treatment to Angela Merkel as her being their geo-strategically understandable personality of sorts. It is, indeed, a historical moment for the Europe to the lead the world on climate change under the new collective leadership of Merkel and Macron without the US. 

Consequently, this diplomatic bonhomie paved the way for Russia to refute the allegation of its involvement in hacking the US Presidential elections in 2016 and also brokered a ceasefire deal impacting the South-Western Syria. However, the leaders have been privy to the games of the doppelganger and phantom diplomacy with Trump admiring Putin moderated by the stipulations of colonial disapprobation from the coterie of cronies. Trump asserted that Russia was involved in the destabilization drive and fishing in the troubled waters in Iran, Ukraine, and Syria and testing the patience of the West. Trump further exhorted the Russia to be a part of “community of responsible nations in our fight against the common enemies and in defense of civilization itself” by adopting a policy of unilateral internationalism correctness deviant to the idea of global constitutionalism, the rule of law, diversity, and multiculturalism. However, G20 Declaration has positively claimed to create an “interconnected world” order that alluded to a trajectory of disconnects of deep roots navigating on the old miasma. Therefore, present G20 leadership could have learned from the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou-China at which a trinity of targets called building resilience, improving sustainability, and assuming responsibility were unanimously agreed upon to advance the G20 Agenda by taking pragmatic actions.

But, unfortunately, the entire gamut of parleys at Hamburg got nosedived in nostrums advocating that the benefits of globalization had to be reaped collectively, markets had to be opened further (but what about the Western protectionism) while ignoring the fact that “the benefits of international trade have not been shared widely enough.”  Nevertheless, just to accentuate how the agenda has been nudged with the obsession of free markets, the diplomatic communiqué incorporated that the states had a right to protect their markets. Now, here is a problematic question as to how this objective is achieved within the theology of free trade in the present world. Moreover, the same arguments were advanced to reiterate the sovereign rights of states on the question of controlling, managing, or limiting the refugee exoduses and migrant influxes. Because refugees and migrants have created a situation that modestly pulls off the regular parochial order based on “national interests and national security” narrative in which the idea of responsibility to protect is absent.

The global financial situation and its system had to be made buoyant and robust to the hilt through the reforms by ensuring bigger financial transparency, fostering international tax cooperation, and dismantling heavens of money stashing stations reported in the Panama Papers. On the issue of climate change, G20-1 members endured their pledge of “collectively committed to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions” using a range of technologies, clean and efficient energy options. Moreover, members minus US did take note of US recantation from the Paris Climate Change Pact and maintained the irreversibility of the impugned agreement that resulted as a sharp jolt to the US and eroded its international stature. Even NGOs and unorganized protesters outside the venue of the G20 Summit have also mounted considerable pressure on the G20 leadership on a range of issues relating to climate change migration and the wealth disparities. Further, the Climate Change and Energy Action Strategy for Development released at the end of the meeting did not provide any future vision to collaborate on the most controversial parts of the climate negotiations including climate finance. The US departure from the Paris Pact has created an additional liability of $3 billion on the rest of the 19 members of the G20 that was initially promised by the US and it had paid $1 billion before reneging the same later. Therefore, there is a shortfall of $2 billion that require other countries to raise their climate change mitigation ambitions in addition to their existing shares. But, unfortunately, Hamburg exercise was subjected to intangible determination and inconsequential resolution that has vindicated a more fractured international community with less dissonance ahead. 

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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‘Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People’: Time to retire

Mohammad Ghaderi

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Again, another mass shooting, again a school, again a troubled teen, a racist, a white supremacist, a Bloods or Crips gangster, a refugee, a war veteran, a mad policeman, a terrorist from al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front or from the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Daesh) terrorist outfits … what difference does it make and again dead bodies lying on the ground in their blood. Who believes they were alive seconds ago. The story goes on and to my surprise it is having less effect than it used to have years ago. Why?

We are getting bad. We are not hurt anymore. Too much violence has made us numb.

What does the motto on the entrance of the United Nations building says? A poem by the Iranian influential poet Sa’adi, from the 13th century, the medieval period. The poem has many translations however one is this:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.

Give it a thought, try to put it in practice, politician and statesmen in the United Nations, New York, United States. It is ludicrous that almost all of them call for end of wars, urge foe peace and tranquil but at the same time produce and sell arms.

War, violence and killing is simply unacceptable, nasty and painful in any kind and form, whether it occurs in a house, street, city, countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine or the United States of America.

U.S. teen confesses to mass shooting at Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

A troubled teen with alleged ties to a white supremacist group confessed on Thursday to murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida, as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, the U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing on Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.

After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.

Cruz also admitted he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.

The recent mass shooting at a school in Florida is the latest reminder that the United States is a “very violent country,” a journalist in Detroit says.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart store and then McDonald’s, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But U.S. authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

Trump cites mental health, not guns, in speech on shooting

Declaring the nation united and grieving with “one heavy heart,” Trump promised on Thursday to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence.

Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared.”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”

However, the ones killed were alone when they were shot in cold blood in fear and hope. The ones who lost their precious lives had many hopes and ambitions.

Now they are dead, and it could be every and each one of us, at a school, stadium, concert hall, cinema, home, Middle East, Americas… anywhere, it could be.

Such incidents are cause of sorrow and pain, I cannot explain how I felt when I saw the horrible pictures of the Florida High School shooting, just like how I felt when I saw the massacre committed by the ISIL terrorists killing cadets in Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. At the time of the attack there were between 4,000 and 11,000 unarmed cadets in the camp. ISIL terrorists singled out Shia and non-Muslim cadets from Sunni ones and murdered them.

Who arms and supports terrorist groups like ISIL? No one can be so naeive to believe that they have just popped out. I recall the U.S. President Trump as saying on his election campaign to Hillary Clinton that the U.S. created ISIL. Well done!

While Trump stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements, his latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Trump’s silence on guns was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions. But the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims.

Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign.

During his brief, televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.

In contrast, former President Barack Obama tweeted out a call for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.” Obama wrote: “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job.”

In reacting to previous mass shootings, Trump has largely focused on mental health as a cause, dismissing questions about gun control. After a shooting at a Texas church in November left more than two dozen dead, the president said, “This isn’t a guns situation.”
The US has averaged one school shooting every 60 hours since the beginning of 2018, data shows.

Trump was criticized in early August for saying that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While Trump has offered somber responses to some tragedies, he has also drawn criticism for other reactions.

After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead in June 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London last June, he went after Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter.

Sadiq Khan compares the US president’s rhetoric against Islam to tactics used by ISIL to inspire terror attacks in Western cities.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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On Jettisoning Failed Leaders and Mass Shootings in the U.S.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The scene is the House of Commons; the date May 7, 1940.  A simple motion to adjourn for the ten-day Whitsun recess is of little concern to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who has a comfortable 213 seat majority.  Then things take a turn.  A plan approved by the first Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to land troops in Norway and engage the Germans directly has been a disaster with huge losses, and the eventual naval evacuation of the expeditionary force — an Arctic Dardanelles planned by the same man.

Chamberlain rises to defend Churchill and the conduct of the war in what has now come to be known as the “Norway Debate”.  In the most unlikely of scenarios and with no evidence of Winston trying to put his name forward — in fact the opposite — when the tide turns against Chamberlain, within three days as more favored candidates are shed, he has become prime minister.  Such is the parliamentary system.  Margaret Thatcher is another example, toppled shortly after success at the polls.

The American system, however, puts the president beyond such reach other than through a laborious impeachment.  Analogous to the third Roman Emperor Caligula, Donald Trump, too, has no military or political experience.  Caligula made his horse a senator or some say consul; Trump has the equivalent running government departments and agencies.  Caligula declared himself a god; Trump tweeted he is a ‘stable genius.’  If Caligula’s reign ended with assassination, Trump’s will be more prosaic — just disaffected voters.

Another mass shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen are dead and  many more injured.  The gunman, identified as Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon far deadlier than a pistol — perhaps he watched the coverage of the Las Vegas shooting.  He was a former pupil who had been suspended from the school, and who students recalled as disturbed and scary.

President Trump in his remarks following the incident did not bring up the obvious question of why an AR-15 was so easily available for purchase.  Gun owners and the gun lobby are part of his constituency.

Following a mass shooting in April 1996 when a man armed with two semi-automatic rifles killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government put together strict gun laws.  They were supplemented with a mandatory gun-buyback program through which 650,000 firearms were destroyed.  Did the program work?  The data tells the story more vividly:  From 1979 to 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings; since 1997 it has had none.

Under his usual theme of ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, President Trump continues to talk about finding ways to deal better with disturbed people.  The sure Australian way is to stop them acquiring guns.

Lost in the Florida school story was another shooting the same day when trigger-happy guards let loose at a National Security Agency entrance.  The forested area is a confused mass of entries and exits.  It has happened before that somebody inadvertently makes a wrong turn and panics when faced with shouting armed guards.  In this incident, bullet holes can be seen in the windshield and the three men in the car were injured.

Introducing the Gates Foundation’s annual philanthropic letter a few days ago, Bill and Melinda Gates appealed to Donald Trump to not cut foreign aid — “even a 10 percent cut could lead to 5 million deaths in the next decade”, Bill Gates warned.  Will President Trump listen?

Despite the many wonderful aspects the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when it comes to jettisoning incompetent leaders, it is difficult to best the parliamentary system for immediacy.

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Trump’s new nuclear doctrine just rhetoric

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Recently the US President Donald Trump unveiled his new nuclear doctrine which had remained unchanged since 2010. Many experts consider Trump’s new doctrine which enjoys many ambiguities as just campaign rhetoric. To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Prof. Filip Kovacevic, University of San Francisco geopolitics.

The US new nuclear doctrine was published several days ago. This document had remained unchanged since 2010. What are the reasons for new changes?

According to the US military establishment, the most important reason for changes is that the world has been a more dangerous and geopolitically unstable place. What the generals are not saying, though, is that it was their own actions which are responsible for this state of affairs. The hegemonic US foreign policy, the attempt to force a neo-liberal Pax Americana on the diversity and richness of the world’s cultures and traditions, is the cause of the present world problems.

Of course, you won’t find this stated openly in the doctrine. What you will find there, in a typical manipulative fashion, are the accusations of others for the problems that the US foreign policy has caused itself. In fact, this hypocritical pattern of behavior, where you take the legitimate reactions of others to your own provocations and aggressive moves as the main cause of tensions and conflicts, goes back many decades into the past.

What is the most significant difference between the new doctrine and the previous one?

In my opinion, the most significant difference is that a lot more money will be poured into the development of nuclear weapons. This will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race with other states and to the proliferation of nuclear weapons as more and more countries will want to acquire them. But it will bring tremendous profits to the US military-industrial complex. In fact, the Trump administration is completely under the control of this section of the US corporate oligarchy. Trump is essentially breaking down all the institutional checks and balances in the US political system and paving a way for a military dictatorship. I have no doubt that the next US president will be a military officer. This means that we are about to see more wars and more deaths around the world, including in the Middle East. Many old, frozen conflicts will be re-opened across Asia and, apparently, the US is also setting a stage for the first-time use of a low yield nuclear weapon. Let’s not forget, though, that the bombs with depleted uranium have already been extensively used in the US /NATO conflicts, starting with the attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, causing horrific public health and environmental problems for generations to come.

In new doctrine, the use of nuclear weapons is allowed in extraordinary situation. There are some ambiguities around this. What are those extraordinary situations exactly?

The fact that the US reserves the right to respond with a nuclear weapon to a non-nuclear attack is nothing new. In fact, the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though there was no nuclear threat from the Imperial Japan. However, what is new in this doctrine is that now the US considers the potential use of a nuclear weapon against a large-scale cyber-attack. This is extremely worrying, because, as is well known, it is very difficult to correctly attribute the source of a cyber-attack. This could make a false-flag attack by some rogue terrorist faction or by the inside provocateurs misinterpreted as an attack by another nuclear power and lead to the nuclear annihilation of all life on Earth.

As the US considers the first strike on Russia acceptable, it means the spirit of the cold war is governing this new doctrine. Why has the US taken this approach?

Provoked by the rapid and aggressive expansion of the US political, economic, and cultural influence in Central and Eastern Europe under the umbrella of NATO, Russia has embarked on the campaign of re-arming and strengthening its defense and security apparatus in recent years. It appears that the US thought that Russia would cave in under its demands and accept to be a third-rate power in Eurasia. However, this was a serious misunderstanding of the Russian history and tradition. Now that Russia pushes back, the US establishment does not know what else to do but to make threats. However, these are empty threats because any kind of use of nuclear weapons against Russia or against its allies within the Collective Security Treaty Organization would quickly lead to mutual destruction. The spirit of the old Cold War has returned, and it will be with us for a long time to come. Accordingly, we will see the flare-up of proxy conflicts and covert actions across the world.

How do you assess the US new doctrine toward Iran? What are the new points?

Iran is one of only four states separately mentioned in the doctrine. The others are Russia, China, and North Korea. Iran is given the least coverage because it is not seen as an immediate nuclear danger to the US .The main emphasis is on what will happen after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ends in 2031. It is stated that after this period, Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. Interestingly, there is no mention of the US getting out of the JCPOA before that time, which is in contradiction to what the US president Donald Trump has been saying recently. It appears that Trump’s statements are just campaign rhetoric intended to please some important and wealthy interest groups, but that, in reality, it will be difficult for the US to get out of the JCPOA, considering that all other signatories are still backing it. However, this is not to say that the US will not use all other means at its disposal, including its vast media and intelligence resources, to sow discord within the Iranian political elite and create an economic and political crisis in the country.

First published in our partner Mehr News Agency

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